Kanaan: “I don’t think you can pick a favorite yet”

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Despite Andretti Autosport’s sweep of the front row for tomorrow’s Pocono IndyCar 400, KV Racing Technology’s Tony Kanaan isn’t ready to concede anything.

“It’s a 400-mile race,” said Kanaan, who will start fifth in the middle of Row 2. “The Andretti guys were strong for the entire season. If you look at their Indy 500 effort, I don’t expect anything less. I don’t think I had anything for [Marco Andretti] today for pole.

“I don’t think you can pick a favorite yet. They did a great job putting three cars in the top three. But it’s a 400-mile race.”

Kanaan is looking to continue his bid for the Triple Crown with a victory tomorrow after winning the Indianapolis 500 this past May. An interesting wrinkle was added earlier this week for the remaining Triple Crown events at Pocono and Fontana in October, which will see three-wide starts.

The Brazilian believes that Pocono’s large frontstretch will be more than adequate in accommodating the start, but nonetheless maintains that everyone will need to take care of each other at the drop of the green flag.

“We only do it once per year,” said Kanaan, alluding to the three-abreast starts at Indy. “Being in a 400-mile race, I hope we respect each other. This straightaway, it’s longer than Indy. It’s wide. I don’t see a problem doing it. But it’s definitely going to be different. We can’t get greedy. We have to respect each other. It’s going to be difficult.

“My boss tells me all the time – that’s why I get paid the big bucks.”

IndyCar 2017 driver review: Ed Carpenter

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MotorSportsTalk continues its annual review of the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers that raced in 2017. The 2017 season behind the wheel was better for Ed Carpenter than either of the last two years, but still wasn’t ideal results-wise in his six oval starts.

Ed Carpenter, No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet

  • 2016: 25th Place (5 Starts), Best Finish 18th, Best Start 5th, 0 Top-5, 0 Top-10, 1 Lap Led, 11.2 Avg. Start, 21.8 Avg. Finish
  • 2017: 22nd Place (6 Starts), Best Finish 7th, Best Start 2nd, 0 Top-5, 1 Top-10, 5 Laps Led, 11.3 Avg. Start, 12.3 Avg. Finish

Ed Carpenter’s 2017 season was largely one of frustration, both behind the wheel and as a team owner.

While a respectable turnaround in results occurred – Carpenter finished between seventh and 12th in five of his six oval races after a nightmare season of ending 18th or worse in each of his 2016 starts – this is still not what he sets out to strive for in the races he does. Lost opportunities loomed larger than any official result he or the Ed Carpenter Racing team achieved.

Carpenter and new teammate JR Hildebrand, in for the departed Josef Newgarden, dominated preseason testing in Phoenix but Hildebrand could only muster third in the race, Carpenter a season-best seventh. Then at Indianapolis, Carpenter (second) and Hildebrand (sixth) flew the flag for Chevrolet in qualifying and practice pace, but they fell to 11th and 16th on race day owing to a front-wing change and late-race penalty for passing before a restart.

Both drivers got collected in incidents at Texas. Hildebrand qualified and finished a season-best second in Iowa but that result came only after the ECR crew rebuilt his car from a crash in practice. Then Carpenter had a practice crash in Pocono and despite a rapid rebuild, they missed the clock to qualify by mere minutes and were unable to do so. Carpenter’s spin on a slick Gateway track at the start of the race sent him over Will Power’s nose assembly in one of the scarier looking incidents of the year, although fortunately he was OK.

In a similar refrain as we often write, it’s not that Carpenter’s lost his ability to drive and he remains one of the series’ savviest and smartest people in the paddock. There have been a lot of extenuating circumstances of late, and it almost felt as though this team had “empty nest” components. Since September, Carpenter has had to secure his team’s future with a move away from its Speedway, Ind. shop, line up Spencer Pigot for a full-time drive replacing Hildebrand in the No. 21 car, find a new road/street course driver in the No. 20 car, and manage both driving and owning himself.